A cycling charity has called for wider awareness to be made about the dangers of ‘car-dooring’ and how to prevent it through a public awareness campaign. Car dooring incidents involve drivers or their passengers opening car doors without checking for the presence of cyclists.
Cycling UK is also advocating that people open car doors with their far hand, rather than the near as a way of preventing avoidable collisions. This method, sometimes called ‘the Dutch Reach' as it is common practice in the Netherlands. The manoeuvre allows the person opening their car door to look behind while also limiting how far their door can open.
Figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) to Cycling UK show that between 2011 and 2015 there were 3,108 people were injured, eight fatally, where “vehicle door opened or closed negligently” was a contributing factor in incidents attended by the police. Some 2,009 of the casualties were people cycling, with five resulting in fatalities. The breakdown was released following a FOI from Cycling UK to the Department for Transport requesting a breakdown of the Contributory factors for reported road accidents (RAS50).
However, Cycling UK believes that the DfT’s figures are not fully representative of the scale of the problem, as the police will attend not all car-dooring incidents. In a letter sent to transport minister Jesse Norman MP, Cycling UK chief executive Paul Tuohy has called for a public awareness THINK! campaign aimed at all car occupants, not just drivers, to look before opening their door.
The cycling charity has suggested a public awareness campaign could include advice on safer road positioning for people cycling, so as to create understanding among all road users about the importance of avoiding the ‘door zone’. The charity would also like to see methods like the 'Dutch Reach' promoted through driver training, and changes to the law that would include an offence of ‘death or serious injury through negligently opening a car door’.
Car-dooring is a criminal offence under Regulation 105 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. The offence currently carries a maximum £1,000 penalty, even if someone dies or is seriously injured as a result of the incident, and no penalty points can be imposed on the offender’s licence.
Paul Tuohy, Cycling UK’s chief executive said: “Some people seem to see car-dooring as a bit of a joke, but it’s not and can have serious consequences. Cycling UK wants to see greater awareness made about the dangers of opening your car door negligently, and people to be encouraged to look before they open.”
Promoting the Dutch Reach approach has been supported by Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Jason Ablewhite, who said: “This simple step seems like a good way of checking that a cyclist is not approaching and reducing the risk of 'dooring', particularly in a congested city.”
AA president Edmund King told BBC News he supported any campaign to improve safety between cars and bikes. “It’s a good idea to get cyclists better educated too,” he said. “It’s much safer cycling some way into the road because if you cycle next to the kerb you’ve got car doors to worry about and you’re much more likely to have to swerve to avoid a pothole or a dropped manhole cover.”
King said driving instructors for BSM and the AA already typically taught the opposite hand door-opening method. He added the AA was still handing out wing mirror "Think Bike" stickers to jog drivers' attention.
A spokesman for the DfT told BBC News: “From 2012-2015, THINK! worked in partnership with Transport for London to extend their cycle safety 'tips' to cyclists and motorists in other cities. This included the advice to ‘Always check for cyclists when you open your car door’. In 2016, THINK! launched a new cycle safety campaign targeting commuter cyclists and HGV drivers."
Footage of a ‘car dooring’ incident was supplied to Cycling UK by Olukayode Ibrahim. On 4 September 2016 Ibrahim was cycling up Tower Bridge Road, London.
Ibraham was heading to work in Leicester Square on a Sunday afternoon. The cars on the road ahead stopped for a traffic light and he rode up beside them. “All of a sudden the passenger door of a VW Golf opened directly in front of me,” said Ibrahim. “There was nothing I could do but to brace for the worst as my mind almost blanked. The impact came in seconds and resulted in me slamming into the inside of the car door while at the same time landing almost on top of the passenger who was exiting the car.”
Ibrahim, who sustained a sprained wrist, said the owner of the car accepted liability for the incident. He added: “The worst part of the experience was the knowledge of what was about to happen when the car door opened and knowing that there is nothing I could do about it and the fact that I didn't know what would be on the other side.”
Source: Cycling UK
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